Slow Downloads Under Vista

The more I use Vista the uglier it gets. I swear, I can’t figure out what the hell were they were smoking at Microsoft when they decided this product was ready for production. I swear, Vista has been a bigger pain in the ass than Linux. People always say that Linux is not ready for the desktop. Fuck them! When I installed Ubuntu on other machine, everything worked out of the box. When I got a computer with Vista factory installed I couldn’t even connect it to the network.

Sure, you can blame my router, but you know what? No other OS had any problems with it. So screw it. I blame Vista.

If this was not enough, I recently discovered even more networking issues. Since this was a clean install of Windows, I have been downloading all kinds of software that I commonly use. IDE’s, SDK’s, tools and what-nots and it’s been taking forever. The other day I grabed a 60MB file and it took almost half an hour to download. I was sitting there staring at the Firefox download progress dialog and the speed has never actually exceed 100Kbps. Most of the time it has been oscillating between 20 and 30Kbps. It was like being on dial up again.

I knew something was wrong here. So I googled it and realized that hundreds… Nay, thousands of people had the exact same issue. It is most commonly traced to two of new Vista “features”: TCP Auto Tuning and Remote Differential Compression.

I won’t bore you with the technical details, but if you are interested this article gives a pretty solid overview of the auto tuning feature. While seemingly useful and desirable it is really just an over-optimization that may backfire if your router does not anticipate it. Unfortunately it is enabled by default. To disable it you need to issue this command as an administrator:

netsh interface tcp set global autotuninglevel=restricted

The second most common issue is with Remote Differential Compression which does what it says – attempts to compress the amount of data that is to be transferred over the network interface. It does that by comparing files on both sides and only moving the ones that changed. In theory it should speed up transfers but it can create unwanted overhead – especially if the remote computer does not support RDC. You can switch it off from the Programs & Features panel by clicking the Turn Windows Features on or off link on the sidebar:

Disable Remote Differential Compression

Disable Remote Differential Compression

I did both. I disabled auto tuning and killed RDC, then rebooted my computer and boom! Transfer speeds were once again being measured in Mbps.

I seriously have no clue how technology-illiterate people deal with this bullshit. It no longer surprises me that tech-neophytes hate this OS with a passion. I mean I hate on Microsoft out of principle – but I was always surprised how people always told me how they dislike the new incarnation of Windows. I always figured it was mostly fear of the unknown. I doubted that they could actually understand the technical reasons why Vista is a POS.

Stuff like this made me realize they don’t have to understand it. They experience it every day – and unlike us, they don’t have enough know-how to google this shit and fix it.

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6 Responses to Slow Downloads Under Vista

  1. Zack UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    I’d have to agree about some of it…my main PC is vista now because I am just flat out too lazy to downgrade to XP. I don’t have the time or energy since I do it all the time for work. But I must say you should try the Windows 7 RC. I’ve been using it on a few extra laptops that I have…it’s very nice. Much peppier than Vista, and the taskbar is the shiz! I wouldn’t be surprised if it still has little issues like this though….it is still Microsoft of course, but it gives me hope that MS is FINALLY starting to create a decent product.

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  2. Zel FRANCE Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    Unless you tried some other OS with your new computer and confirmed it, you can’t really say Vista was to blame for your first networking issues. Maybe it’s hardware incompatibility.

    That aside, I think what went wrong in Microsoft’s dev teams was that they thought people would have much different hardware than they actually do. The minimum specs were much too high for most of the installed computer base, and despite some marketing tricks aimed at hiding that, it still remains true. The famous “Vista Capable” label was a serious joke, did they really think a 800 Mhz, 512 Mo RAM computer could run the O.S with a modicum of comfort ? Even 2 years or so after release, a good proportion of computers sold today can’t even hope to run it decently without an upgrade first.

    Following this trend, it’s not hard to imagine Microsoft thought everyone would have routers equipped with the latest gimmicks for optimal networking performance, and had abandoned their trusty 10 years old hardware for more recent one.

    That and they must have had some serious admin issues back in Redmond. Everything in Vista seems designed to annoy the administrator, from the long series of screens to get to the config page you want (especially networking), to the poorly parametered tools that could have been very useful : U.A.C. with blocking of the whole desktop asking to click “Continue” = wrong, U.A.C. in a simple window that asks for admin password without locking the computer = good (it requires registry editing to set it up this way… sad).

    However, it’s not all bad. Setting it up is a pain, you have to disable quite a few things (Windows Search, a few other services), but once it’s done daily use is quite comfortable and I quickly got used to it. Now, I’d rather spend time on my Vista Laptop than on my XP Desktop. It hardly crashes, maybe twice since the beginning of the year, while XP still does his usual once-a-week BSOD or freeze.

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  3. Luke Maciak UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    @Zack: I don’t know… Considering Microsoft’s track record I have real reservations about using anything labeled as RC. I’m sure that Windows 7 will be better than Vista – but I’ll think I wait at least until the release. Or better yet, till after SP1 before I make the jump. Unless of course Vista drives me nuts in the first place.

    @Zel: You are right. My initial networking issue was a combination of 64 bit network card drivers for Vista and an old router. So saying that the OS itself is at fault is an oversimplification.

    Still, had I bought a computer with XP I probably wouldn’t run into this issue.

    Btw, how do I make the UAC prompt non modal? Do you have a link handy? I’ve been dealing with it so far – as a long time Linux user privilege elevation prompts are nothing new to me. In fact, I’ve been sort of enjoying them in a way. Each time they pop up I still get that “oh look, Windows is finally growing up and starting to behave like a real operating system” moment. I’m pretty sure this feeling will be gone in a few weeks and I will be as annoyed with it as everyone else is.

    So if you have a link that explains the registry hack you mentioned, I’d love to see it. :)

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  4. Rob UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Ubuntu Linux Terminalist says:

    Luke, have you been to He does some OS tweaking guides that tell you what you can off (and more importantly where to find them) within Vista. Whenever I install any Windows OS I usually visit his site for a refresher on where to find all the off buttons for features I don’t want or need.

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  5. Luke Maciak UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    @Rob: Yeah, I’m aware of that site but haven’t checked it out in ages. I used to extensively use it to try to tweak some of the ancient laptops at work not to choke while running Windows 2000 by shaving off all the unnecessary services and all that stuff. Thanks for reminding me about it.

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  6. Zel FRANCE Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    To turn the U.A.C. non-modal (at least for the rest of the tasks, the one that asks for privileges is still frozen), you have to navigate your way to

    HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Policies\ System

    From there, just change the PromptOnSecureDesktop key to (REG_DWORD) 0.

    I’d also recommend setting ConsentPromptBehaviorAdmin to either (REG_DWORD) 1 if you only use an admin account, which makes U.A.C. ask for the admin password to use your elevated rights, or (REG_DWORD) 0 if you usually use a normal user account and only log in as administrator to perform… admin tasks and don’t want to remind the O.S. you’re admin every second.

    If you want, you can apparently also set these things up in the Local Security Policy administrative tool, except as usual Microsoft didn’t make them available for Home versions.

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